dimanche 31 décembre 2006

Forest fires

Its getting hotter and hotter here (30 in the sun today) and still not a sniff of snow. In fact there have been several forest fires nearby which are still not under control despite the best efforts of over 200 firefighters - over 600 acres of forest has been destroyed. We could see the huge plumes of smoke from the mountain yesterday and for the past few days there has been a haze in the air from the smoke. Bonfires have been banned in the department.
On a brighter note, here's a curtain I made last week for the front door from a bed throw, some leather bootlaces, a handful of pebbles and an old bit of copper tube.

samedi 30 décembre 2006

Cirque de Cagateille

A great winter walk today with Al and Sandrine. Into the cirque de Cagateille, plenty of ice in condition (just). Then a stiff climb into the upper cirque above the falls and grand traverse between the two frozen lakes in deep powder.

8 hours on the hill and we even managed to get some sun for lunch.

vendredi 29 décembre 2006

Field 4

Here's the path we cleared a few days ago leading down to the stream....

...and here's Al demonstrating dry stone walling techniques.

mercredi 27 décembre 2006

Cabane Subra

Today Al and I went for a walk to the Cabane Subra (the same Place I went with Sandrine last week only this time by a different route contouring in from the Col de la Core). Snow conditions were quite different, generally less of it but what remains is developing an icy crust. Conditions otherwise were perfect and in the sun it was positively balmy!

Al saw a spotted eagle (or so he claims), but we both saw an izard.

Yesterday we cleared one of my 'parcelles' which I spent all summer trying to find the exact boundaries of. Now it's winter and the vegetation has died back it was very obvious. After some work with the bowsaw and chainsaw we have also cleared an ancient 'chemin' bordered by earth mounds almost all the way to the stream at the bottom of the valley.

samedi 23 décembre 2006


As it's pretty cold at the moment (-6 centigrade at night) I was able to detect a strong icy draught behind the fireplace and thus discovered a huge loire tunnel to the outside. No wonder during the summer, despite bloking up every route into the house, the loires kept coming!! As the dead loire photo has been my most popular post, here's another dead loire to feast your eyes upon (note the accuracy of the single head shot).

There is a Santa Claus!

Santa came early with my new french car. Number plate will change shortly to a 09 plate indicating I live in the Ariege. Compared to the old one it's incredibly quiet and comfortable!

mercredi 20 décembre 2006


The mezzanine bedroom is now nearly finished. The circle on the end wall is a window which lets light and air into the room (it was night time when I took the photo)...and yes I know it doesn't look like its in the middle...it is, but the roof pitches are different on each side of the house.

mardi 19 décembre 2006

Another great slow cook recipe

This is a flemish hot pot. Brown plenty of onions and beef cut into 1" cubes (I added some liver too) put in casserole with 1/2 pint dark beer (could use Guinness) a slice of bread spread thickly with mustard and a piece of dark chocolate. Bring to boil then slow cook for 3 hours in oven at 350 ish. Yummy!

Let it snow

Snowing very lightly all day...might be as much as 1cm!!

lundi 18 décembre 2006

Vallee d'Estours

Went for a walk with Sandrine today in the Vallee d'Estours. Above 1200m there was quite a lot of snow and it snowed very lightly most of the day. We reached 1700m before it was time to turn around and head back - Sandrine had to meet the kids from school.

On the way back we passed a horse skeleton picked clean by vultures. As one of the legs was separated I couldn't resist the 'jake the fake' routine.

pimp myspace

Tonight it is snowing lightly at Quelebu - the first time this year - but probably the last snow until January.

I have a creoste problem with the Rayburn chimney mainly resulting in a creosoty smell when it is first lit . I think its a problem caused by the old uninsulated chimney (can't replace until next year when I do the whole roof) and the wood I'm burning being green (next year my wood pile will be much dryer as most of it was felled this year). I'm using a weekly additive to reduce the problem but there is little I can do until next spring.

mercredi 13 décembre 2006

Skiing at last

Yesterday I was building hazel hurdles and today as the weather was set fair and the car battery is charged again, I decided to go skiing. Only Baqueira (Spain) and Piau Engaly are open in the Pyrenees - Baqueira is a mere 20 miles away as the crow flies but a 2 hour trip by car and I opted to go there.

Snow is still poor and soft here, but thanks to snow canons Baqueira had 5 pistes open. The snow wasn't to bad, a bit icy and few stones here and there but the weather was great and it was good to find my ski legs. Took a fall on some ice which was good as it tested the binding release and snow brakes (both of which worked) and only my pride was hurt.

lundi 11 décembre 2006

No skiing for me today

Last night was very cold and after the drizzle yesterday everything froze solid...including the car! This morning it wouldn't start (flat battery from yesterday) and despite parking it on a slope I couldn't move it. In the end I got an old axle and tried to lever the car forward from behind the back wheels, it was then that I discovered that the rear brakes had also frozen solid. Eventually I managed to freewheel it down the road but with the brakes binding I couldn't get enough speed to bump start it. ) :

Battery now on charge.

Apparently in these parts one leaves the car in gear and releases the hand brake to stop it all freezing together.

Alas today is beautiful - clear blue ski, very cold, ideal for skiing. Tomorrow the forcast is not so good - Oh well winter has only just begun, I'll have to ski another day.

dimanche 10 décembre 2006


Its been cold (and damp) for the past few days and the extra snow promised by the weather service hasn't arrived at lower altitudes. Transplanted some hedging yesterday from field 2 to field 1 and went to a christmas market in Salau this afternoon (moral support for my neighbour Sandrine who was selling photgraphs, cards and calenders). When I went to leave the market I discovered I'd left my lights on! Managed to bump start it fortunately. Tonight I've left it in a place where it can freewheel downhill just in case the battery isn't fully charged!!

Several ski resorts are partially open and tomorrow I'm going to go skiing at Baqueira in Spain (I hope). Best to find my ski legs before launching out on a ski mountaineering expedition!

vendredi 8 décembre 2006

Boeuf Bourguignon

Made a delicious beouf bourguignon today. The beef was marinated with garlic and herbs in red wine for 24 hours. I gently fried carrots and onions before browning the meat, adding a little flour, then it all went in the Rayburn with the marinade. 3 hours of slow cooking later I added some mushrooms, bacon and shallots (also gently fried) then gave it another hour. Served with roast potatoes the meat was as succulent and tender as is possible and the rich flavour and aroma of the casserole...a dream.

Oh the joy of slow cooking!

mercredi 6 décembre 2006


At last it snowed today!

dimanche 3 décembre 2006

Pudding Club No 2

This lunchtime was pudding club meeting number two.

On offer were a raspberry and apple fruit cobbler with custard (me), a dessert of apricots in set semoulina served cold (Susanne), plums and apricots from Celine's garden stuffed with homemade marzipan (Celine), a peach and apple tart (John) and finally a lemon tart made with a sugar substitute that went kinda' wrong(!) and didn't taste as it should (John too). All washed down with Gaillac Premier (local equivalent of Beaujolais Nouveau) and a white Bordeaux pudding wine.

vendredi 1 décembre 2006

Floor update

All the work was worth it! The floor looks great. Last night the smell from the polyurethane was so overpowering I had to leave the house before I passed out - I slept at the neighbours. Only problem is that now I'll have to do the stairs too.